John 13:34-35

34 “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. 35 This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.

Romans 12:10

10 Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

James 3:1-12  Taming the tongue

3 My brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, because we know that we teachers will be judged more strictly. We all make mistakes often, but those who don’t make mistakes with their words have reached full maturity. Like a bridled horse, they can control themselves entirely. When we bridle horses and put bits in their mouths to lead them wherever we want, we can control their whole bodies.

Consider ships: They are so large that strong winds are needed to drive them. But pilots direct their ships wherever they want with a little rudder. In the same way, even though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts wildly.

Think about this: A small flame can set a whole forest on fire. The tongue is a small flame of fire, a world of evil at work in us. It contaminates our entire lives. Because of it, the circle of life is set on fire. The tongue itself is set on fire by the flames of hell.

People can tame and already have tamed every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish. No one can tame the tongue, though. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we both bless the Lord and Father and curse human beings made in God’s likeness. 10 Blessing and cursing come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, it just shouldn’t be this way!

11 Both fresh water and salt water don’t come from the same spring, do they? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree produce olives? Can a grapevine produce figs? Of course not, and fresh water doesn’t flow from a saltwater spring either.

This is the word of God for us the people of God.  Thanks be to God.

Family Words: Hurtful or Life Giving?

Read the memory verses together.

So, I have a question for you this morning.  Raise your hand, if you have ever been hurt by someone’s words.  And now, raise your hand if you have ever hurt someone by your words?  I think it is fair to say that each person from the youngest to the oldest has both experienced hurt and dished out hurt to others through words.

So really, the thoughts I share with you today, and these words from James are not a surprise.  We know that words are important.  We know that our words can either lift others up – and bless them, or that they can cut others to the bone – and curse them.  We know that we need to use our words to bless others, yet, somehow – we don’t always do that, do we?  But yet, we do have that choice with every word we speak – to lift someone up or tear them down with our words.

We know that James speaks the truth in this scripture.  We know that our tongue is like a bridled horse.  If we just bridled our tongues, the whole world would be different.

We can understand that our tongues, though small, are like the rudder of a ship – our whole days being controlled by words.

We have experienced the small flame of negative words spreading like a forest fire to those within ear shot and all across school or all across our workplace or even all across our town.

Listen to what commentator William Barclay says about this passage.  Let this sink in as I read to you:

Many a man speaks with perfect courtesy to strangers and even preaches love and gentleness, and yet snaps with impatient irritability at his own family.  It has not been unknown for a man to speak with piety on Sunday and to curse a squad of workmen on Monday.  It has not been unknown for a man to utter the most pious sentiments one day and to repeat the most questionable stories the next.  It has not been unknown for a woman to speak with sweet graciousness at a religious meeting and then go outside to murder someone’s reputation with a malicious tongue.  These things, said James, should not be….The tongue can bless or curse; it can wound or soothe; it can speak the fairest or the foulest things.  It is one of life’s hardest duties to see that the tongue does not contradict itself but speaks only such words as we would wish God to hear.  (Barclay, William, The Daily Bible Study Series: The Letters of James and Peter, p. 90).

We live in a world overflowing with negative and even destructive words.  So, I encourage you again this week to notice it – start to be aware of it  — because our words are powerful.  I pray that we might open our ears to the nature of what we hear and what we speak.

Today, I want to ask you to think particularly about the words we use with our families.  So, begin to notice how your family talks to one another.  Barclay is right – we say things to our families we would never say to others.  Why in the world do we do that?  I’m not sure why we treat others better than our families.  Maybe we are just more comfortable and less on guard.  But these are the ones we love more than life itself – and we often use words that are hurtful and harmful rather than life-giving.

I ask you to think about why our speech is so important?  My study Bible points out two reasons.  First, as James says, our speech “displays our attitudes and our commitments.”  (Wesley Study Bible, CEB, p. 1556).  Our speech reflects our attitudes about God and ourselves, and our speech also reflects our commitment to loving God and to loving others.  James says that a fig tree doesn’t produce olives; a grapevine doesn’t produce figs; fresh water doesn’t flow from a salt water stream.  And if we truly love God and if we truly love others, words of hatred and gossip and negativity should not flow out of us.  If we are submitted and committed to God’s ways, our tongues should not condemn others, but should bless others!

The other reason our speech is important is that relationships will be either cultivated or destroyed by our words.  Our words will either help us grow closer to others or be separated from others.

And it is not just our words that can be harmful; I ask you to think about your tone of voice and body language and actions – these all add to the power of our words.  Let me give you an example that may or may not have happened at my house.  This conversation should have gone like this:

Would you please close the door?  I noticed that there are mosquitoes out here, and they could get into the house.

Response: Good idea.  And she gently closes the door.

Instead, here is what may or may not have happened:

Close the door!  You are letting bugs in the house.

No comment.  She slams the door in his face.

Yikes!  Almost the same words.  The tone was totally different.  The body language was totally rude and disrespectful.  Our words can bless, or our words can curse.  Our tone of voice and our actions can add to the destruction.  If you examine your words and actions at the end of each day, the Holy Spirit will bring things like this that need correction to light.

But I don’t want to preach on this topic and focus only on how our words bring others down.  I want to talk more about how we can use our words to bless others.  I have two friends who are some of the most amazing people I know.  I must say that I have hardly ever heard them say anything negative about another person.  They are wonderful people and truly a blessing to be around.  When I don’t see these two for a while, I start to miss them because they bring joy to my day.  They are my example of how to use words to lift others up.  In fact, when I am around them, I am much more conscious of my own words.  And so I really encourage you to surround yourself with this kind of person if you are serious about living a life where your faith is displayed in your day to day words and actions.

More than anything, I pray that the words we use in our families would only be words that bless and don’t curse.  And this is where your challenge for the week comes in.  There are four things I want to ask you to practice with your family.  These are four things that we can all do – no matter how young or old you are!  First, would you practice saying: “I love you.”  No matter who we are, we all want to know that we are loved.  Right? This goes for our brothers and sisters, moms and dads, children and grandchildren – we all want to know we are loved.  And how will they know we love them unless we use our words to express this, right?  Find a way to tell your family members that you love them on a regular basis – maybe they are far away from you and you might have to get creative in telling them, “I love you,” but that makes the words that much more special.  If you got a family devotioanl have a piece of paper with some suggestions of ways you can say “I love you,” and I’ll post these on the Atkins church website, too.

Second, learn to say you are sorry.  Work on saying “I am sorry,” when it is necessary.  It is inevitable that family are going to hurt one another’s feelings – sometimes we make mistakes, and no matter how difficult it is to admit, sometimes it’s necessary to say “I’m sorry.”  But maybe an even harder part of this equation is being able to say, “I forgive you.”  When we carry the burden of resentment against our children or parents or siblings, we are carrying an unnecessary burden – we are walking through life with this huge burden that God never intends for his children to carry.  I urge you to pray continually for the Holy Spirit to allow you to let this burden go by forgiving one another.

Third, there are two little words that we have got to start using in our families: “thank you.”  Be thankful for specific things you see going on with your family members and say “thank you” for things that your family members do for you.  But also thank God for the amazing gift that God has given you in your family.  Say “thank you” to God each day for that gift.  We can spend our lives looking at how disappointed we are in our family members, or we can be grateful to have their presence in our lives.  What an amazing gift from God family is!

And finally, and maybe most importantly – as you will read in James 1:19: “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19).  Motivational speaker Stephanie Staples says: “Everything in your head does not need to be said.”  Have you ever heard it said that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason?  And have you ever had a child pull on your hand or grab your face, so that you would listen.  May we be…… quick to listen and slow to speak.

I ask you today, to get in the habit of thinking about the words you use.  Think about how you talk with your family – think about your words and your tone of voice.  Think about the volume of your words.  Are you lifting your family up with your words?  Think about how you can get your point across in a loving way.   Think about using words that will reflect how much you love your family and respect them and enjoy their presence.  I have heard stories of children who were told every day that they were ugly or that they were a mistake or that they were stupid.  How tragic that is.  How devastating.  How wrong.  So, think about how God wants you to show God’s love through your words — to bless your family and not curse them, to lift them up and not tear them down.  And know that if you have experienced that kind of hateful talk, God desires so much more for you.  God created each of us as holy and special children of God, and God wants you to know that!  God wants us to tell our children that!  God wants us to tell our spouse that!  God wants us to tell strangers, even, that he loves them!  Maybe that is the point of this scripture – that part of the God-given purpose of our lives is to use our words to show others how much God loves them.

Let us pray.  God of grace and peace, give our words the power of your spirit.  Help us to speak words of life to our families.  And may the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O, God, you are our rock and our redeemer.  Amen.

Commission & Benediction

(based on Romans 12:9-12)

 

Don’t just pretend to love others—

really love them- love them with your words and your actions.

Hate what is wrong and pursue what is good

as if your life depended on it.

Live in true devotion to one another,

loving each other as sisters and brothers.

Do not lose your zeal for God,

but serve Him passionately and with enthusiasm.

And do not forget to rejoice,

for hope is always just around the corner!

And may the blessing of God,

the love of Jesus Christ,

and the presence of the Holy Spirit

be your strength for all these things.

Amen.